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Cocos nucifera
Coconut palm
Coconut palm
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Liliopsida
Order: Arecales
Family: Arecaceae
Genus: Cocos
Species: C. nucifera
Binomial name
Cocos nucifera

The Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera) (Filipino: Niyog) (Visayan: Lubi ) is the only species in the genus Cocos of the Family Arecaceae (palm family), subfamily Cocoideae. It is called the "Tree of Life" because of the various products and by-products derived from its various parts from root to fruit.<ref name="test1">Philippine Coconut Authority website. Coconut: The Tree of Life(accessed November 5, 2007).</ref>



The coconut palm is an unarmed, tall, large palm, growing to a height of 25 m for the tall varieties and 4 meters for the dwarf varieties,<ref name="test2">United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Leaflet No. 8-1983-Coconut (accessed November 5, 2007).</ref> with the trunk reaching 30 to 50 centimeters in diameter, thickened at the base. As the palm grows, the old leaves break away leaving annular scars around the trunk. The pinnate leaves 3.5 to 6 meters long with a stout petiole, with bright-green leaflets 60 to 100 centimeters long, crown the top of the trunk. Every leaf is capable of producing an inflorescence which will develop into a bunch of coconuts. Each inflorescence is polygamomonoecious, that is, it has both male and female flowers. Before the inflorescence opens, it is first enclosed in a spathe. As the spathe opens, the straw colored, one-meter-long spadix, which is the flower bearing structure within the spathe, is exposed. The spadix is a branched organ. Each branch is called a rachilla or spikelet carrying one or two female flowers at the lower portion and a numerous number of male flowers at the upper portion. The male flowers are small and yellowish, while the female flowers are much larger and rounded. <ref name="test3">Philippine Bureau of Plant Industry. Publication on coconut (accessed November 6, 2007).</ref> Flowering starts at 5 to 8 years of age for tall varieties, and 3 to 4 years for the short varieties, and occurs continuously, thus the palm bears coconuts all year round. Coconuts may either be self-pollinated or cross-pollinated.<ref name="test5">United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service Website. Chapter on Tree Fruits and Nuts (accessed November 6, 2007).</ref>

Left: Dwarf variety coconut; Right: Tall variety coconut

Coconuts are classified into tall and dwarf varieties. Tall varieties have enlarged stems with bulbous bases, denser roots, very small to large nuts, and coconuts and leaves are usually mixtures of greens and browns. They are reproductively mature at 5 to 7 years, are less sensitive to adverse environmental conditions, and are expected to live for over 50 years. Dwarf varieties, on the other hand, have thin stems either with a cylindrical or tapering base, less dense roots, very small to medium nuts, and coconuts and leaves are either pure greens, browns, yellows or reds. They are reproductively mature at 3 to 4 years, are sensitive to adverse environmental conditions, and are expected to live for less than 50 years. Tall varieties are more widely distributed and commercial, and are also highly cross-pollinated, while dwarf varieties are less widely distributed and non-commercial, and are highly self-pollinated.

The term coconut refers to the fruit of the coconut palm, which is actually not a nut but a drupe.<ref name="test4">University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) website. Entry on coconuts (accessed November 6, 2007).</ref> Coconuts are ovoid, 15 to 30 centimeters long, containing single seeds. They have thick, fibrous husks enclosing hard shells, inside of which are the thin brown seed coats covering white flesh with watery fluid at the center. The embryo is found below one of the three pores at the end of the fruit.

Habitat and Distribution

The coconut palm grows throughout the tropical world. It thrives in a hot, moist climate, on sandy loam soils, and is highly tolerant of salinity, thus it is usually found on tropical shorelines. Its biophysical limits are: an altitude of 520 to 900 m; a mean annual temperature of 20 to 28 degrees Celsius; and a mean annual rainfall of 1000 to 1500 millimeters. The coconut palm has a natural preference for sandy, well-aerated and well-drained soils, but it has considerable ability to adapt to soils of heavier texture.<ref name="test6">World Agroforestry Centre website. Agroforestry tree database, entry on coconut (accessed November 6, 2007).</ref>


Coconut palms are propagated by seedlings raised from fully mature fruits.

Fully mature nuts are picked and not allowed to fall from the tree. They are tested by shaking to listen for water within. Underripe nuts, spoiled nuts, those with no water, and those with insect and disease damage are discarded. Nuts are planted in the nursery or stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated shed until they can be planted.<ref name="test23">Purdue University Center for New Crops and Plants Products. Entry on coconut.</ref>


According to the Philippine Coconut Authority, a good nursery should be open, level and well drained, and should have light or loose textured soil to facilitate nursery operations and a good source of water without possibility of being flooded. It should also be accessible to transportation yet be far from existing potential sources of coconut insect pests and diseases, such as saw mills, piles of decaying logs, and animal manure. A nursery site with a minimum area of 3,600 square meters is needed to accommodate about 12,000 seednuts good for 50 hectares. To be fully operational, the nursery should have a fence for security, a shed to house the implements and supplies, farm implements and small equipment, a source of water for irrigation, and sufficiently trained manpower.

Seedbed in a coconut nursery.

The seedbed should preferably be in the center of the nursery. To facilitate sowing of nuts, it should be cleared, plowed and finely harrowed. Seedbeds are prepared with the following dimensions:

  • Elevation: 10 to 20 centimeters high to provide drainage.
  • Width: 1 meter to avoid stepping on seednuts during maintenance and transfer operations.
  • Length: a 2 meter long seedbed is ideal for easy inspection, management and maintenance; a seedbed measuring 1 x 40 m can accommodate about 1,000 seednuts.
  • Pathway: 0.75 meter to 1 meter between seedbeds should be provided to facilitate inspection, selection, pricking, maintenance and seedling transfer activities.

Nuts are planted firmly setting them either upright or slightly tilted with the germ end at the top. The nuts are set close to one another to prevent them from floating in case of heavy rains. The nuts are then covered with soil, with about two-thirds of their size buried. Maintenance of the seedbed involves daily watering except when it is raining, weeding if necessary, partial shading when needed, and inspection for disease and pest incidence. When the sprout emerges through the husk to a height of 4 to 6 centimeters, seedlings are planted in the field nursery either directly in the soil or in polybags to allow them more space to grow. All nuts producing sprouts which are multiple, thin or etiolated, bent or spindled, or albinos, are discarded. The optimum waiting period for ending the observations of germination in each seedbed is around 16 weeks from the date of sowing or when 85 percent germination had been achieved, whichever comes first.

Polybag Nursery

A polybag nursery makes use of black polyethylene bags half filled with compost and soil. It is recommended by the Philippine Coconut Authority over the field nursery as transplanting shock is greatly minimized, thereby promoting early establishment of transplanted seedlings. Also, seedlings can be retained longer in the nursery when conditions for field planting are not favorable. The seedlings placed in the polybags are laid out 60 centimeters apart, in the same order as they germinated, from east to west, thus making it easier to select seedlings according to age.

The polybag nursery is maintained by watering, weeding, and inspection for pest and disease incidence. Fertilizer application for each seedling is recommended as follows:

  • At 2 months after germination, 20 grams of (NH4)2SO4 (21-0-0), 25 grams of KCl(0-0-60) or 20 grams of NaCl.
  • At 5 months after germination, 40 grams of (NH4)2SO4 (21-0-0), 45 grams of KCl(0-0-60) or 40 grams of NaCl.

The fertilizers are mixed and applied directly to the soil around the nuts. Afterwards, the soil is lightly cultivated to promote faster dissolution and absorption of fertilizer. At 6 to 8 months after polybagging, leaf splitting occurs, indicating that the seedlings are ready for field planting.

Most coconut areas in the Philippines are widely deficient in N, Cl, S and K2O and adequate in other nutrients. Generally, liming is not needed as coconut has a wide adaptability to soil acidity (pH 4.5 to 8).<ref name="test24">International Fertilizer Industry Association website. Entry on coconut.</ref>


Layout of a coconut plantation.

According to the Philippine Coconut Authority, there are four systems of planting coconuts:

  • Square - Palms are set at fixed equal distance at the corner of each square, the distance between palms in each row and the distance between adjacent rows being the same. The most common distances are 10 meters by 10 meters at 100 trees per hectare.
  • Rectangular - Rows are set at right angles to one another but the distance between the palms in the row is closer than those between the rows. This system provides for a slightly lower number of palms in a stand but allows for more room for growing intercrops.
  • Triangular - Palms are set at fixed distance at the corners of an equilateral triangle. About 15 percent more palms can be accommodated per unit area under this system. This system is prone to monoculture when distances between coconuts are less than 10 meters.
  • Quincunx - This system is used for replanting old coconut plantations where the old palms will be removed as soon as the new seedlings are established. Seedlings are planted in the center of each square of old palms. This system is applicable only in square plantings.

Holes should be dug with a size of at least 50 by 50 centimeters, starting as early as 2 months before planting to allow for weathering of the soil on the sides and bottom of the holes to promote early root contact.

The best time to transplant seedlings is at the onset of the rainy season. Palms should be 8 to 10 months old but 6-month-old seedlings may be planted if the seedlings will be 8 months by the start of the dry season. Before transplanting, each hole should be applied with fertilizers mixed with soil. Field nursery seedlings should be planted immediately or at least 3 days after removal from the nursery to reduce mortality. For polybagged seedlings, the polybag is removed first before the seedling is transplanted. The hole should be covered with loose topsoil, slightly firmed at the base of the crown. The top of the nuts should be about 5 to 8 centimeters below the ground level. Deep planting might suffocate the bud while shallow planting might cause the material to bend, sway or lean during heavy rains and windy days. A slight depression must be provided to trap rainwater towards the base of the crown.

Fertilizers should be applied:

  • At pre-bearing stage or vegetative stage (1 to 3 years) - Split application of annual rate per palm, the first half at the start of the rainy season and the remaining half at 6 months after or about one month before the end of the rainy season.
  • At bearing stage - One application for areas with even rainfall distribution (1.5 to 3 dry months) or split application for areas with distinct dry and rainy season.
Coconut palms intercropped with cassava.

Coconut palms may be intercropped with the following crops: sweet potato, cassava, ginger, upland rice, mungbean, corn, gabi (taro), peanut, sweet pepper, ramie, hot pepper, sunflower, bush sitao (string beans), eggplant, arrowroot, banana, pineapple, coffee, cacao, black pepper, vanilla, lanzones, rambutan, durian, mangosteen, abaca and papaya.

Pests and Diseases

See Coconut pests and diseases.


All the parts of the coconut palm, from root to tip, have uses, which include the following:

  • The coconut palm's roots may be used to produce astringents and antidiarrhea, <ref name="test20">Phytomania website. Medicinal herbs and uses (accessed November 5, 2007).</ref> as well as beverages and dyestuffs.<ref name="test1">Philippine Coconut Authority website. Coconut - The Tree of Life (accessed November 5, 2007).</ref>
  • The coconut trunk produces hardy lumber as well as pulp for papermaking.<ref name="test1">Philippine Coconut Authority website. Coconut - The Tree of Life (accessed November 5, 2007).</ref>
  • The bud of the coconut palm's inflorescence produces a sweet juice called tuba, which may be drunk as a fresh beverage, or may be fermented to produce either a sweet coconut toddy or a potent gin called lambanog which is 80 to 90 percent proof. Tuba is also used for making vinegar, sugar, and a honey-like syrup called "coco honey", and as a source of yeast for making bread. Cut, dried, and varnished, coconut flowers may also be used in creating candy trays and decorative objects.<ref name="test1">Philippine Coconut Authority website. Coconut - The Tree of Life (accessed November 5, 2007).</ref>
  • Coconut fiber, or guinit, may be used in producing helmets, caps, wooden shoe straps, handbags, fans, picture and house decor like lamp shades and guinit flowers for the table.<ref name="test1">Philippine Coconut Authority website. Coconut - The Tree of Life (accessed November 5, 2007).</ref>
  • Coconut "heart", or ubod, is used to make the "Millionaire's Salad", so called because getting the heart of the palm kills the tree, making the ubod very costly. Cubed in fairly large bits, it may be added to Spanish rice, or in long strips, to Arroz a la Cubana. It may also be used in coco pickles, guinatan and lumpia.<ref name="test1">Philippine Coconut Authority website. Coconut - The Tree of Life (accessed November 5, 2007).</ref>
  • Coconut leaves produce good quality paper pulp, midrib brooms, hats and mats, fruit trays, waste baskets, fans, beautiful midrib decors, lamp shades, placemats, bags and utility roof materials.<ref name="test1">Philippine Coconut Authority website. Coconut - The Tree of Life (accessed November 5, 2007).</ref> They are also used to wrap delicacies such as the suman sa ibos, as well as steamed rice, such as the puso. They figure prominently every year during Palm Sunday, when they are used for making palaspas, the coconut-leaf decorations that, after having been blessed with holy water by the priests at church, are taken home and placed on altars and fastened on doors and windows for good luck and protection against evil.
  • Coconut husks are a cheap source of firewood, and are also used as bunot, used to buff waxed floors. Fibers from coconut husks are used in making brushes, doormats, carpets, bags, ropes, yarn fishing nets, and mattresses, as well as for making pulp and paper. They can also be used as substitute for jute in making rice, copra, sugar, coffee, bags and sandbags. Coir dust and short fibers from coconut husks may be used in manufacturing wallboard, which is termite-proof due to the presence of creosote. No binding materials are needed as lignin is inherent in the coconut husk. Coir yarn, coir rope, bags, rugs, husk decor, husk polishes, mannequin wig, brush, coirflex, coco gas, lye insulator, insoflex, plastic materials and fishnets are other products that can be obtained from coco husk.<ref name="test1">Philippine Coconut Authority website. Coconut - The Tree of Life (accessed November 5, 2007).</ref>
  • Coconut shells are used in creating household products and fashion accessories, such as shell necklaces, shell bags, cigarette boxes, shell ladles, buttons, lamp shades, fruit and ash trays, guitars, placemats, coffee pots, cups, and wind chimes, as well as briquetted charcoal. Charcoal made from coconut shells are also used in producing activated carbon, used in air purification systems such as cooker hoods, air conditioning, industrial gas purification systems, and industrial and gas masks. Whole coconut shells, cleaned and polished, have traditionally been used in Filipino culture as coin banks.<ref name="test1">Philippine Coconut Authority website. Coconut - The Tree of Life (accessed November 5, 2007).</ref>
  • Young coconut meat produces buko, often used for salads, halo-halo( crushed ice with sweetened fruit), sweets and pastries, such as the well-known buko pie of Laguna. Coconut meat also produces coco flour, desiccated coconut, coconut milk, coconut chips, candies, bukayo or sweetened shredded coconut meat, latik, copra, and animal feeds. Coco chips, which are curved and wrinkled coconut meat, are crisply toasted and salted. Coconut flour can be used as a wheat extender in baking certain products without affecting their appearance or acceptability. Coconut milk is a good protein source. Whole coco milk contains about 22% oil, which accounts for its laxative property.<ref name="test1">Philippine Coconut Authority website. Coconut - The Tree of Life (accessed November 5, 2007).</ref>
  • The makapuno, or "sport fruit" of the coconut, is considered a delicacy and largely used for making preserves and ice-cream.<ref name="test1">Philippine Coconut Authority website. Coconut - The Tree of Life (accessed November 5, 2007).</ref> However, other uses of makapuno have been found, such as facial, hand and hairdressing creams, shampoo, toothpaste, vitamin carrier in pills, salicylic acid ointments, sulfur ointments and even muscle pain relievers.
  • Dried coconut meat, or copra, has a high oil content, as much as 64%, and is used in making coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil (VCO), taken orally, retards aging, counteracts heart, colon, pancreatic and liver tumor inducers, and is easy to digest. Coconut oil is also used to make soap and shampoo due to its high saponification value in view of the molecular weight of most of the fatty acid glycerides it contains. Other products from coconut oil are lard, coco chemicals, crude oil, pomade, margarine, butter and cooking oil.<ref name="test1">Philippine Coconut Authority website. Coconut - The Tree of Life (accessed November 5, 2007).</ref> Coconut oil is also used as an alternative fuel or biofuel, as it is used in Coconut Methyl Ester (CME).<ref name="test22">Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities website. Article "Coconut Biodiesel: A Key to a Better Air Quality in the Philippines.</ref>
  • Coconut water, the liquid endosperm inside the coconut fruit, can be used in making coconut water vinegar, coconut wine, and chewy, fiber-rich nata de coco good as a dessert and as a laxative. Coconut water can also be used as a growth factor and as a substitute for intravenous fluid or dextrose. It also makes a good and economical thirst quencher and is used in coconut water therapy, or "bukolysis", to cure renal disorders.<ref name="test1">Philippine Coconut Authority website. Coconut - The Tree of Life (accessed November 5, 2007).</ref>
  • Coconut Fiberboard is a novel and innovative product made up of cement, coir, shredded wood, fronds and other ligno-cellulosic materials that are available in coconut farms which are otherwise considered as agricultural waste.


The coconut industry is a dominant sector of Philippine agriculture. Of the 12 million hectares of farmlands, 3.1 million hectares are devoted to coconut cultivation. There are around 324 million coconut trees in the country, about 85 percent of which are considered productive.

Coconut farms are widely distributed nationwide, largely in regions of Southern Luzon in the North and Mindanao in the South. 68 out of 79 provinces are coconut areas.

There are 3.5 million coconut farmers in the Philippines, and about 25 million Filipinos are directly or indirectly dependent on the coconut industry.

The Philippine coconut industry provides an annual average of 5.97 percent contribution to the Gross Value Added (GVA) and 1.14 percent to the Gross National Product (GNP) of the Philippines, and accounts for a 59 percent share of world coconut exports. It is among the top 5 net foreign exchange earners, with an average of US $760 million per year. <ref name="test21">Philippine Coconut Authority website. Magnitude of the Philippine coconut industry.</ref>

Cultural aspects

See The Coconut in Filipino Culture.

Philippine Laws and Regulations Relating to Coconuts

Republic Act No. 8048, also known as the "Coconut Preservation Act of 1995", prohibits the cutting of coconut trees except for any of seven grounds specified in the law and only after the issuance of a permit by the Philippine Coconut Authority.

Republic Act No. 9367, also known as the "Biofuels Act of 2006", was approved on January 12, 2007 and took effect on May 6, 2007. It mandates a minimum of 1 percent biodiesel by volume blended into all diesel engine fuels sold in the Philippines. This percentage should increase to 5 percent in 2 years and 10% in 4 years. Biodiesel refers to Coconut Methyl Ester (CME), also called Coconut Biodiesel or Coco Diesel.


<references />

Educational Materials

  • The Botany of the Coconut Palm, Philippine Coconut Authority Regional Office XII
  • Coconut Varieties and Cultivars, Philippine Coconut Authority Regional Office XII
  • Field Planting and Farm Maintenance, Philippine Coconut Authority Regional Office XII
  • Coconut Embryo Culture for the Propagation of Makapuno Seedlings, Philippine Coconut Authority Regional Office XII
  • Coconut Nursery Establishment and Management, Philippine Coconut Authority Regional Office XII
  • Coconut Fiberboard (CFB), Philippine Coconut Authority Regional Office XII
  • Coconut Growing, Philippine Coconut Authority Regional Office XII

External links



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